Since returning to the pharmacy benefits beat last fall — right around the time Pfizer Inc. lost patent exclusivity on Lipitor — I’ve heard (and generated) a lot of talk about consumer drug copay coupons. My return to Drug Benefit News also coincided with the release of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s now infamous and unequivocally titled study How Copay Coupons Could Raise Prescription Drug Costs By $32 Billion Over the Next Decade, which sparked a continuing debate over PBMs’ motives for waging war against the popular discount programs.
Express Scripts Holding Co. recently reported some interesting findings in its annual 9 Leading Drug Trends in Rx Plan Management. One is that only 54% of the 318 plan sponsors surveyed said they are familiar with copay coupon programs. And 74% of those respondents that said they didn’t know about the coupons were plans with more than 25,000 members. For all that we hear about the problem these programs are creating, I was kind of surprised by this number and would be curious to see how much awareness jumps in next year’s poll.
Of those plan sponsor respondents that are in the know, 61% cited the coupons as an area of growing concern, 75% predicted that they will increase costs, and only 25% indicated a belief that these programs have the potential to improve adherence.
The latest blockbuster drug to lost patent exclusivity is Plavix, but Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Sanofi-Aventis are not making a major push to maintain market share like Pfizer did by continuing its “Lipitor For You” program and offering discounts to PBMs. In its 2011 Annual Report, BMS said it anticipated a “rapid, precipitous and material” decline in Plavix net sales — which accounted for one-third of the company’s 2011 sales. Going forward, the company said it plans to “focus on sustaining our business and building a robust foundation for the future” by growing its currently marketed products and advancing its pipeline.
Could it be that brand drug manufacturers are giving up the battle for market share by focusing on the future, or is Plavix an isolated case?